THE remaining charge against the House of Representatives, whichI am to examine, is grounded on a supposition that the number ofmembers will not be augmented from time to time, as the progressof population may demand. It has been admitted, that thisobjection, if well supported, would have great weight. Thefollowing observations will show that, like most other objectionsagainst the Constitution, it can only proceed from a partial viewof the subject, or from a jealousy which discolors and disfiguresevery object which is beheld. 1. Those who urge the objectionseem not to have recollected that the federal Constitution willnot suffer by a comparison with the State constitutions, in thesecurity provided for a gradual augmentation of the number ofrepresentatives. The number which is to prevail in the firstinstance is declared to be temporary. Its duration is limited tothe short term of three years. Within every successive term often years a census of inhabitants is to be repeated. Theunequivocal objects of these regulations are, first, to readjust,from time to time, the apportionment of representatives to thenumber of inhabitants, under the single exception that each Stateshall have one representative at least; secondly, to augment thenumber of representatives at the same periods, under the solelimitation that the whole number shall not exceed one for everythirty thousand inhabitants. If we review the constitutions ofthe several States, we shall find that some of them contain nodeterminate regulations on this subject, that others correspondpretty much on this point with the federal Constitution, and thatthe most effectual security in any of them is resolvable into amere directory provision. 2. As far as experience has taken placeon this subject, a gradual increase of representatives under theState constitutions has at least kept pace with that of theconstituents, and it appears that the former have been as readyto concur in such measures as the latter have been to call forthem. 3. There is a peculiarity in the federal Constitution whichinsures a watchful attention in a majority both of the people andof their representatives to a constitutional augmentation of thelatter. The peculiarity lies in this, that one branch of thelegislature is a representation of citizens, the other of theStates: in the former, consequently, the larger States will havemost weight; in the latter, the advantage will be in favor of thesmaller States. From this circumstance it may with certainty beinferred that the larger States will be strenuous advocates forincreasing the number and weight of that part of the legislaturein which their influence predominates. And it so happens thatfour only of the largest will have a majority of the whole votesin the House of Representatives. Should the representatives orpeople, therefore, of the smaller States oppose at any time areasonable addition of members, a coalition of a very few Stateswill be sufficient to overrule the opposition; a coalition which,notwithstanding the rivalship and local prejudices which mightprevent it on ordinary occasions, would not fail to take place,when not merely prompted by common interest, but justified byequity and the principles of the Constitution. It may bealleged, perhaps, that the Senate would be prompted by likemotives to an adverse coalition; and as their concurrence wouldbe indispensable, the just and constitutional views of the otherbranch might be defeated. This is the difficulty which hasprobably created the most serious apprehensions in the jealousfriends of a numerous representation. Fortunately it is amongthe difficulties which, existing only in appearance, vanish on aclose and accurate inspection. The following reflections will,if I mistake not, be admitted to be conclusive and satisfactoryon this point. Notwithstanding the equal authority which willsubsist between the two houses on all legislative subjects,except the originating of money bills, it cannot be doubted thatthe House, composed of the greater number of members, whensupported by the more powerful States, and speaking the known anddetermined sense of a majority of the people, will have no smalladvantage in a question depending on the comparative firmness ofthe two houses. This advantage must be increased by theconsciousness, felt by the same side of being supported in itsdemands by right, by reason, and by the Constitution; and theconsciousness, on the opposite side, of contending against theforce of all these solemn considerations. It is farther to beconsidered, that in the gradation between the smallest andlargest States, there are several, which, though most likely ingeneral to arrange themselves among the former are too littleremoved in extent and population from the latter, to second anopposition to their just and legitimate pretensions. Hence it isby no means certain that a majority of votes, even in theSenate, would be unfriendly to proper augmentations in the numberof representatives. It will not be looking too far to add, thatthe senators from all the new States may be gained over to thejust views of the House of Representatives, by an expedient tooobvious to be overlooked. As these States will, for a greatlength of time, advance in population with peculiar rapidity,they will be interested in frequent reapportionments of therepresentatives to the number of inhabitants. The large States,therefore, who will prevail in the House of Representatives, willhave nothing to do but to make reapportionments and augmentationsmutually conditions of each other; and the senators from all themost growing States will be bound to contend for the latter, bythe interest which their States will feel in the former. Theseconsiderations seem to afford ample security on this subject, andought alone to satisfy all the doubts and fears which have beenindulged with regard to it. Admitting, however, that they shouldall be insufficient to subdue the unjust policy of the smallerStates, or their predominant influence in the councils of theSenate, a constitutional and infallible resource still remainswith the larger States, by which they will be able at all timesto accomplish their just purposes. The House of Representativescannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the suppliesrequisite for the support of government. They, in a word, holdthe purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in thehistory of the British Constitution, an infant and humblerepresentation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere ofits activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as itseems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the otherbranches of the government. This power over the purse may, infact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon withwhich any constitution can arm the immediate representatives ofthe people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and forcarrying into effect every just and salutary measure. But willnot the House of Representatives be as much interested as theSenate in maintaining the government in its proper functions, andwill they not therefore be unwilling to stake its existence orits reputation on the pliancy of the Senate? Or, if such a trialof firmness between the two branches were hazarded, would not theone be as likely first to yield as the other? These questionswill create no difficulty with those who reflect that in allcases the smaller the number, and the more permanent andconspicuous the station, of men in power, the stronger must bethe interest which they will individually feel in whateverconcerns the government. Those who represent the dignity of theircountry in the eyes of other nations, will be particularlysensible to every prospect of public danger, or of dishonorablestagnation in public affairs. To those causes we are to ascribethe continual triumph of the British House of Commons over theother branches of the government, whenever the engine of a moneybill has been employed. An absolute inflexibility on the side ofthe latter, although it could not have failed to involve everydepartment of the state in the general confusion, has neitherbeen apprehended nor experienced. The utmost degree of firmnessthat can be displayed by the federal Senate or President, willnot be more than equal to a resistance in which they will besupported by constitutional and patriotic principles. In thisreview of the Constitution of the House of Representatives, Ihave passed over the circumstances of economy, which, in thepresent state of affairs, might have had some effect in lesseningthe temporary number of representatives, and a disregard of whichwould probably have been as rich a theme of declamation againstthe Constitution as has been shown by the smallness of the numberproposed. I omit also any remarks on the difficulty which mightbe found, under present circumstances, in engaging in the federalservice a large number of such characters as the people willprobably elect. One observation, however, I must be permitted toadd on this subject as claiming, in my judgment, a very seriousattention. It is, that in all legislative assemblies the greaterthe number composing them may be, the fewer will be the men whowill in fact direct their proceedings. In the first place, themore numerous an assembly may be, of whatever characterscomposed, the greater is known to be the ascendency of passionover reason. In the next place, the larger the number, thegreater will be the proportion of members of limited informationand of weak capacities. Now, it is precisely on characters ofthis description that the eloquence and address of the few areknown to act with all their force. In the ancient republics,where the whole body of the people assembled in person, a singleorator, or an artful statesman, was generally seen to rule withas complete a sway as if a sceptre had been placed in his singlehand. On the same principle, the more multitudinous arepresentative assembly may be rendered, the more it will partakeof the infirmities incident to collective meetings of the people.
Ignorance will be the dupe of cunning, and passion the slave ofsophistry and declamation. The people can never err more than insupposing that by multiplying their representatives beyond acertain limit, they strengthen the barrier against the governmentof a few. Experience will forever admonish them that, on thecontrary, AFTER SECURING A SUFFICIENT NUMBER FOR THE PURPOSES OFSAFETY, OF LOCAL INFORMATION, AND OF DIFFUSIVE SYMPATHY WITH THEWHOLE SOCIETY, they will counteract their own views by everyaddition to their representatives. The countenance of thegovernment may become more democratic, but the soul that animatesit will be more oligarchic. The machine will be enlarged, but thefewer, and often the more secret, will be the springs by whichits motions are directed. As connected with the objection againstthe number of representatives, may properly be here noticed, thatwhich has been suggested against the number made competent forlegislative business. It has been said that more than a majorityought to have been required for a quorum; and in particularcases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for adecision. That some advantages might have resulted from such aprecaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additionalshield to some particular interests, and another obstaclegenerally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerationsare outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. Inall cases where justice or the general good might require newlaws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, thefundamental principle of free government would be reversed. Itwould be no longer the majority that would rule: the power wouldbe transferred to the minority. Were the defensive privilegelimited to particular cases, an interested minority might takeadvantage of it to screen themselves from equitable sacrifices tothe general weal, or, in particular emergencies, to extortunreasonable indulgences. Lastly, it would facilitate and fosterthe baneful practice of secessions; a practice which has shownitself even in States where a majority only is required; apractice subversive of all the principles of order and regulargovernment; a practice which leads more directly to publicconvulsions, and the ruin of popular governments, than any otherwhich has yet been displayed among us.